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How do I know if I’m striking too hard?

by Curt

One of my instructors tells me that I’m hitting too hard, but then another instructor tells me I’m hitting too soft and to not be afraid of hurting them.


When I hit harder I don't even feel like I am hitting very hard, I’m just trying to use good technique.

When I hit softly and slowly, it tends to be very sloppy and not worth doing. I don't feel like I have an inbetween since my "hard" hits feel somewhat weak to me. How can I fix this?

Answer: Very good question and also very hard thing to fix. Probably the problem is not the strength of your strike but “sae”. Sae can be translated as “sharpness”.

Sae is not something we can get right away. It needs years and years of practice. Have you heard of tenouchi? In order to have a good sae, we have to have a good tenouchi.

We all know the right hand should be relaxed until we strike a target. At the moment our shinai hit a target, the right hand should be tightened and relaxed again almost immediately after we struck.

I recommend learning “sae” by not only watching but also hearing the sound made by people with high grade when they hit a target. It sounds very different.

If you work on the timing to tighten your right hand at the moment of hitting a target, you may be able to figure out what your tenouchi should be more quickly. I do not suggest working on the strength of your strike too much.

Hope this helps.

Comments for How do I know if I’m striking too hard?

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May 15, 2009
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Kendo's Reader Digest! ^__^
by: Eric Gildea of Pittsburgh Kendo Dojo

First let me start by expressing how much I enjoy reading Imafuji-sensei's comments and just the site over all. English speakers are really on the "short end" when it comes to kendo knowledge and information. I say it all the time, but this is a noble cause, one that I will support in any way I can. And I encourage everyone to do so.

In regards to the topic of discussion, "hitting too hard" I think Imafuji sensei's advice is sound and logical. I can not personally emphasize enough the important of "sae". Since I personally know of a few people who are having a hard time attaining higher ranks, say 5th dan and up because they lack the "proper" sae in their strike.

Great thread, and comments! Thank you!

Kendo-Guide.Com: I really appreciate your support Eric. You have been supporting me since the start of The Cyber Dojo in 2006.

I could not agree more with the importance of sae. This can be said for many other things in kendo but we really have to work on these little things all through our lives.

Never ending story, huh? I really am looking forwards to seeing you again and do jigeiko with you soon!

May 13, 2009
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Use footwork
by: Matt

I've had this problem too, and it depends on the Sensei, but Takahashi sensei in Detroit routinely tells me I hit like a girl.

Most beginners that are told they are 'hitting too hard' are because they are trying to use their arms and what Tagawa sensei calls 'upper power' (your shoulders, back and upper arm) to get sae and 'strength'.

It needs to come from 'lower power' (tenouchi with forearms and legs.) If you want more power and snap, most likely working on fumi-kiri ashi will help.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for the good comment. Men tend to use a lot of power in their arms while women don?t. So women tend to have better strikes than men at the very beginning.

I don?t emphasize on cutting movements much when teaching beginners even though that is what interests them most. But instead, I make them work on footwork. As long as they know the importance of footwork in kendo, they don?t mind practice a lot of footwork.

Working on footwork instead of thinking about how hard or weak your strikes should be is a great method to improve your kendo too. Good suggestion, Matt!

Apr 14, 2009
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Hitting too Hard
by: John M.

I'm going to assume given that you have conflicting opinions, that you are probably hitting too hard. The person receiving the strike should be able to tell certainly.

But what I have noticed for people who hit too hard, usually males, is the tension in the upper body, shoulders, neck, even jaw. What is needed is learning how to relax, relax, etc. But this is not as easy as it sounds. Looking at female kendoka, usually you see a very relax, smooth and seamless movement.

A lot of hard strikes comes from tension esp. the forearms, shoulders, locking the elbows as the strike is about to be completed. Relax the upper body, jaw, neck, etc. Correct breathing is also quite helpful.

Yes, trying to correct by holding back will cause this kind of hesitated slower movement so that's not the way to correct. It takes time to really develop a relax and tension-free movement.

I sometimes ask the students to look at people like Tiger Woods and his golf swing. How smooth and relaxed it is and compare that to other people's swing.

But don't despair; it will come.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Very nice advice. Thank you!

Sae as I mentioned in my previous comment can be acquired only by thousands and thousands of suburi and uchikomi. It is not something you can do because you are told to be relaxed.

As John mentioned, just trying to relax does not help much. If you want to relax, have a lot of kiai, just shout as much as you can, and do a lot of kirikaeshi. Nice and big until you cannot lift your arms up. Then you will know how your strikes should feel like.

It is not something we logically acquire but physically.

Hope this helps.

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